23 Smart, fast, and protected

Kristin Conlin

Privacy and ownership

Privacy and ownership of information in the United States is protected through a series of ruling issued by the judicial system.  To date, the United States has not proactively protected its citizen’s privacy since the IV Amendment was published.  There is no regulatory body created, supported, or endorsed by the US government that currently governs behavior on the internet, or use of the internet.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates the internet as a service, but not behavior on the internet.  Some argue that this process prevents heavy-handed, invasive regulation of our free market economy[1].

In 2018, the FCC enacted the Restoring Internet Freedom Order that states it requires more transparency of internet service providers.  None of this addresses actions taking by those using the internet to engage in data collection.  The burden of privacy is placed on the private citizen internet user in the United States.  This places an undue burden on the private citizen as they may not have the tools, time, and resources to create a environment that protects their data.

The European Union sought to address this disparity through the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted on May 25th, 2018.  Article 13 and 14 of the GDPR itemize how the information controller (entity that has the data) must share their data collection policies clearly and openly.  It also addresses an individual’s rights to the data collected from them.  Several advocacy organizations augmented this legal document with a plain language explanations of the GDPR,  and while not perfect, the efforts of governing and private entities demonstrate that protection and ownership of personal data is attainable.

Fundamentally, once the public is aware of their rights, they are especially reluctant to forfeit them.

Advocacy and protection

Advocacy and protection in the United States is possible.  Using a compilation of free tools and information, a private citizen has the ability to minimize access and exploitation of their data.  The 2019 State of EdTech Privacy Report from Common Sense Media stated, “fundamentally once the public is aware of their rights, they are especially reluctant to forfeit them.”[2].

Founded in 2003, the Tactical Tech Collective seeks to address gaps in education and awareness related to data privacy.  Past projects supported by this group include Me and My Shadow and Security in a Box.  Their current endeavor, entitled the Data Detox Kit is a multi-faceted project designed to support safer interactions in digital spaces.  By applying skills and tools in the Data Detox Kit, an individual can reduce their digital footprint and protect the data they must store online.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation also published a Surveillance Self-Defense Guide designed to build better security around a person’s data.

The Contract for the Web was launched in November 2018.  It was designed by over 80 organizations from around the globe and is being adopted continually.  This framework of 9 principles provides language and an action plan for governments, (private and public) companies, and citizens to build equitable access and civil engagement on the internet.

Each of the principles is a broad goal with suggested actions to meet each goal.  For instance, Principle 1 states everyone should have access to the internet and then it itemizes how that access can be supported through: [3]

  1. [S]etting and tracking policy goals
  2. [D]esigning robust policy-frameworks and transparent enforcement institutions to achieve such goals
  3. [E]nsuring systematically excluded populations have effective paths towards meaningful internet access

How each government, company, and citizen acts on these principles is not specified.  This freedom allows each entity to work with existing political, cultural, and technological frameworks which can facilitate quicker and universal adoption.  However, that also allows for an uneven adoption and implementation of the principles.  Principle 9 seeks to address that potential pitfall by calling on individual citizen to advocate and engage with the content adoption process. [4]

  1. Federal Communications Commission. (2018, June 11). The FCC Restoring Internet Freedom Order [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/SCYztq0ua3Y
  2. Common Sense Media. (2019). 2019 State of edtech privacy report: Common sense privacy program. https://privacy.commonsense.org/content/resource/state-of-edtech-2019/cs-2019-state-of-edtech-privacy-report.pdf
  3. Contract for the Web. (2019). Principle 1 In Contract for the Web https://contractfortheweb.org/
  4. Principle 9 In Contract for the Web https://contractfortheweb.org/


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